The History of A Fine Ship


THIS 1943 PHOTO has double the Marin County history. First, the shipyard is Marinship, a rapidly constructed facility on Richardson Bay in Sausalito. A typical day at Marinship saw 20,000 workers, many of them women, reporting for work on one of three eight- hour shifts. During three-plus years of around-the-clock production, Marinship produced 93 oceangoing vessels, most of which were Victory and Liberty ships (the restored Jeremiah O’Brien, berthed at Fisherman’s Wharf, is a Liberty ship). Liberty ships were 440 feet long, traveled at 11 knots and brought cargo, food and ammunition to various theaters of war.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt nicknamed them the “Ugly Ducklings” of World War II. Regardless, the 12th of 15 Liberty ships launched at Marinship was christened the Peter Donahue — the second Marin County tie-in in the photo.

Donahue was born in 1822 in Glasgow, Scotland, of Irish parents, who brought him to America as a youngster. When he was 30 he started a San Francisco gas company that eventually became PG&E. His Marin endeavors involved launching the Northern Pacific Railroad, which starting in 1884 was based in Tiburon.

Donahue was behind the building of not only many of the railroads that connected Marin County with points as far north as Eureka, but also huge ferryboats, such as the Eureka, which could transport more than 1,000 passengers and 10 freight cars from Tiburon to San Francisco (the restored Eureka is berthed at the Francisco Maritime National Historical Park). With such an important maritime history, it is fitting that a World War II Liberty ship be named the Peter Donahue.